WARNING: This unit is ABSURD. However, instructor Lea Marshall decided to do something really ABSURD with the unit, which was make it a bit more predictable. First, the unit takes two lessons to go over the Historical and Philosophical background of Theatre of the Absurd. It starts with just a visual exercise to really bring students into the emotional bleakness of the landscape and then group work to look at some of the other foundational elements that will drive the Absurdist movement into the Theatres.

Next, students break down absurd scripts into some “recognizable” elements of language, plot structure, acting choices, and storyline. With each lesson that introduces an Absurdist Element, there is an opportunity for students to “play” with the element. Then, students explore the element through an Absurdist text. This will help familiarize the students with the 4 Absurdist scripts used in the unit. These bite sized forays into the scripts will help students to choose a script to fully immerse themselves in for the final project.

As a final project, students will choose one script to work with, and choose the format of their project (performance, costume or set design, or playwright).

Overview

The overview sets up the objectives for the unit and outlines each lesson and describes the final project.

1: Visual Absurdity

To visually introduce the existential angst of World War II’s aftermath; to provide a historical setting for Theatre of the Absurd; as students, write a reflection monologue.

2: Out of Tune

Students will explore the historical and philosophical background for the ABSURDIST style of theatre.

3: Cliches, Stereotypes, and Overused Phrases

To compare modern-day clichés and stereotyped phrases to those used in Theatre of the Absurd Plays to convey that style’s message of language’s meaninglessness.

4: Cliches, Stereotypes, and Overused Phrases in Waiting for Godot

Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of using cliches, stereotypes, or overused repeated phrases to communicate (or not communicate) a larger theme of interpersonal relationships and misunderstandings in the text of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

5: Meaningless Language

Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of using meaningless language to communicate (or not communicate) a larger theme of interpersonal relationships and misunderstandings.

6: Meaningless Language in The Bald Soprano

Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of using meaningless language to communicate (or not communicate) a larger theme of interpersonal relationships and misunderstandings through the text of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano.

7: Circular Plot Lines

Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of circular plot lines that appear to go nowhere and end in unresolved situations.

8: Circular Plot Lines in The Arsonist

Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of circular plot lines that appear to go nowhere and end in unresolved situations by using the text from Max Frisch’s The Arsonists.

9: The Pause

Students will examine the effect of pauses in a scene and demonstrate the Absurdist dialogue convention of strange and ill-timed pauses.

10: The Pause from Waiting for Godot

Students will examine the effect of pauses in a monologue from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and demonstrate the Absurdist dialogue convention of strange and ill-timed pauses.

11: Impossible Things are Happening Every Day

Students will explore the Absurdist plot convention of impossible things seen as normal or unremarkable.

12: Impossibilities in Ionesco's Rhinoceros

Students will explore the Absurdist element of impossible things seen as normal or unremarkable in Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros.

13: Final Project: The Play's the Thing...

Students will explore elements of Absurdism in their chosen Absurd play.

Standards Addressed

National Core Arts Standards


Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation - Grade HS Accomplished

TH:Pr4.1.HSII.a - Discover how unique choices shape believable and sustainable drama/ theatre work.

Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation - Grade 8

TH:Pr5.1.8.a - Use a variety of acting techniques to increase skills in a rehearsal or drama/theatre performance.

Organize and develop artistic ideas and work - Grade HS Accomplished

TH:Cr2.1.HSII.b - Cooperate as a creative team to make interpretive choices for a drama/theatre work.

Refine new work through play, drama processes and theatre experiences using critical analysis and experimentation - Grade 7

TH:Cr3.1.7.a - Demonstrate focus and concentration in the rehearsal process to analyze and refine choices in a devised or scripted drama/theatre work.

Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work - Grade 7

TH:Pr6.1.7.a - Participate in rehearsals for a drama/theatre work that will be shared with an audience.

Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding - Grade 7

TH:Cn11.2.7.a - Research and discuss how a playwright might have intended a drama/theatre work to be produced.

Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work - Grade 8

TH:Pr6.1.8.a - Perform a rehearsed drama/theatre work for an audience.

Refine new work through play, drama processes and theatre experiences using critical analysis and experimentation - Grade HS Accomplished

TH:Cr3.1.HSII.a - Use the rehearsal process to analyze the dramatic concept and technical design elements of a devised or scripted drama/theatre work.

Refine new work through play, drama processes and theatre experiences using critical analysis and experimentation - Grade HS Advanced

TH:Cr3.1.HSIII.a - Refine, transform, and re-imagine a devised or scripted drama/theatre work using the rehearsal process to invent or re-imagine style, genre, form, and conventions.

Common Core


California VAPA Standards (2019)


Acc.TH:Pr4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.

Acc.TH:Pr4.a - Discover how unique choices shape believable and sustainable drama/ theatre work.

8.TH:Pr5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

8.TH:Pr5.a - Use a variety of acting techniques to increase skills in a rehearsal or drama/theatre performance.

7.TH:Pr6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

67TH:Pr6 - Create through improvisation a drama/theatre work that will be shared with an audience.

7.TH:Cn11.2 Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

7.TH:Cn11.2.a - Research and discuss how a playwright might have intended a drama/theatre work to be produced.

8.TH:Pr6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

8.TH:Pr6 - Perform a rehearsed, scripted scene from a drama/theatre work for an audience.

Florida Sunshine State Standards


Skills, Techniques & Processes

TH.912.S.1.4 - Compare the artistic content as described by playwrights, actors, designers, and/or directors with the final artistic product and assess the success of the final artistic product using established criteria.

TH.912.S.1.5 - Write monologues, scenes, and/or short plays using principles and elements of writing found in dramatic literature.

TH.912.S.1.6 - Respond appropriately to directorial choices for improvised and scripted scenes.

TH.912.S.1.7 - Interpret dramatic texts, organize and conduct rehearsals, and justify directorial choices for formal and informal productions.

TH.912.S.1.8 - Use research to extract clues in dramatic texts to create performances or technical elements, choosing those that are most interesting and that best convey dramatic intent.

TH.912.S.2.4 - Sustain a character or follow technical cues in a production piece to show focus.

TH.912.S.2.8 - Strengthen acting skills by engaging in theatre games and improvisations.

TH.912.S.3.1 - Articulate, based on research, the rationale for artistic choices in casting, staging, or technical design for a scene from original or scripted material.

TH.912.S.3.2 - Exercise artistic discipline and collaboration to achieve ensemble in rehearsal and performance.

TH.912.S.3.3 - Develop acting skills and techniques in the rehearsal process.

TH.912.S.3.9 - Research, analyze, and explain the processes that playwrights, directors, designers, and performers use when developing a work that conveys artistic intent.

North Carolina Essential Standards


Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Theatre Arts


MS 117.211 LI - Creative Expression: production

C.3.C - collaborate to plan brief dramatizations.

MS 117.212 LII - Foundations: Inquiry and Understanding

B.1.E - demonstrate knowledge of theatrical vocabulary and terminology.

HS 117.315 LI - Critical evaluation and response

C.5.C - offer and receive constructive criticism of peer performances.

HS 117.316 LII - Critical evaluation and response

C.5.C - offer and receive constructive criticism of peer performances.

HS 117.317 LIII - Foundations: Inquiry and Understanding

C.1.B - experiment with stage movement.

Alberta, Canada


Technical Theatre/Design 10-20-30 - Costume

1 - demonstrate understanding of the purpose of costume

Theatre Studies Drama 10 (Greek, Medieval or Elizabethan, and Canadian)

1 - recognize theatre has evolved as a traditional art form

2 - recognize innovations in the theatre

Technical Theatre/Design 10-20-30 - Lighting

1 - demonstrate understanding of the purpose of stage lighting

Technical Theatre/Design 10-20-30 - Management - Properties

1 - demonstrate understanding of the purpose of stage properties

Technical Theatre/Design 10-20-30 - Management - Set

1 - demonstrate understanding of the purpose of stage scenery

Technical Theatre/Design 10-20-30 - Management - Sound

1 - demonstrate understanding of the purpose of stage sound

Movement Level II - Intermediate

21 - display clarity of movement and gesture

Theatre Studies Level II - Intermediate (Theatre History)

6 - show awareness of selected periods and playwrights

Ontario, Canada